ADDRESSING YOUTH CHALLENGES AND FEMICIDE IN SOUTH AFRICA

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By Cuma Pantshwa

  • As Youth Month ends, South African youth still face significant challenges, including unemployment, gender-based violence, substance abuse, and teenage pregnancies.
  • The alarming rise in intimate partner violence and femicide calls for urgent interventions and systemic changes in tracking and addressing these crimes.
  • The introduction of South Africa’s Femicide Watch offers a hopeful approach to understanding and combating the root causes of gender-based violence.

As Youth Month draws to a close, South African youth continue to face a myriad of challenges, such as unemployment, gender-based violence, substance abuse, teenage pregnancies, and other related social ills. These issues require urgent attention and decisive interventions to break the cycle of hardship endured by the younger generation.

South Africa is grappling with a significant rise in intimate partner violence (IPV) against women, particularly in low-income townships. Approximately one in four South African women have been in an abusive relationship, and 30% of ever-partnered women have experienced IPV in their lifetime. Femicide rates are alarmingly high, with a woman being killed every three hours. According to the 2023/2024 third quarter crime statistics released by the South African Police Service (SAPS), crimes against women aged 18 years and above, including murder, attempted murder, and assault, have increased from 902 in 2021 to 18,474 by the end of 2023.

The digital world is evolving rapidly, and technology is increasingly influencing all aspects of our lives, including the criminal justice system. “Our unwavering goal is to cultivate a justice system that is efficient, effective, resilient, and adaptable to the challenges of tomorrow. Ongoing engagement with our stakeholders, citizens, and colleagues is integral to this continuing journey of progress. Together, we are actively driving positive change to build a just, secure, and inclusive future,” said Advocate Doctor Mashabane, Chairman of the Integrated Justice System (IJS) Board of Directors and Director General of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ & CD).

Due to the absence of a legal framework defining “femicide,” there is no centralised tracking or official classification for these cases. Currently, all unlawful killings are classified as murder, leading to fragmented data and a lack of reliable statistics on femicide cases.

South Africa’s ground-breaking Femicide Watch taps into existing data collection processes, connecting information across law enforcement and justice departments to expose the true scale of femicide and track accountability in addressing this critical issue. The Femicide Watch consolidates data from police reports, court documents, and health records into a single centralised repository to track femicide cases comprehensively. Over half of these cases stem from intimate partner violence, mostly occurring in women’s homes by current or former partners through gunshots or stabbings, with nearly 20% involving women murdered alongside their children.

The aim is an urgent policy change, focusing on addressing this pandemic and transforming societal attitudes and the lives of citizens. This centralised femicide database enables in-depth statistical analysis of case characteristics, trends, and outcomes, informing policies and interventions to prevent gender-related killings of women. While the statistics are concerning, the Femicide Watch offers hope by emphasising the importance of understanding the root causes of violence to reduce femicide rates. Continuous monitoring and analysis of the Femicide Watch data will guide prevention efforts, marking a significant milestone in addressing this crisis, according to regional experts.

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